Báez, Lindor apologize for thumbs-down jab at Mets fans

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
1 Comment

NEW YORK – Javier Baez and Francisco Lindor have apologized to Mets fans after Baez revealed that a thumbs-down celebration gesture adopted by players was in part a dig at New York fans who have booed the underperforming ballclub.

Baez and Lindor took turns saying they were sorry less than an hour before first pitch of a game Tuesday against the Miami Marlins. That followed a stern statement from team president Sandy Alderson on Sunday night disavowing the gesture, as well as a team meeting Tuesday in which players said they would stop making it.

“I didn’t mean to offend anybody,” Baez said.

Lindor added, “It doesn’t look good on our part.”

Hours after the apology, Baez was booed loudly by fans when he pinch hit in the eighth inning. Fans in a sparse crowd stood and turned down their thumbs while he batted, jeering him until he was hit by a 2-2 pitch on the shin and walked to first.

Lindor also was booed before his first at-bat and again after laying down a successful sacrifice bunt in the resumption of a game postponed by rain in the first inning on April 11.

The 28-year-old Baez was acquired from the Chicago Cubs on July 30 and has hit .210 with four homers and a .709 OPS in 17 games since. Mets fans booed him and others throughout August, when the team has gone 8-19 to fall out of playoff position after leading the NL East for nearly three months.

Players began making the thumbs-down gesture toward their dugout after base hits and other positive plays while at Dodger Stadium from Aug. 20-22.

“When we don’t get success, we’re going to get booed,” Baez explained Sunday. “So they’re going to get booed when we have success.”

Lindor and manager Luis Rojas said Tuesday they believe Baez – whose first language is Spanish but doesn’t use an interpreter when speaking to media – misspoke when he said Mets players were booing the fans.

“I didn’t say the fans are bad, I love the fans, but like, I just felt like we were alone,” Baez said Tuesday. “The fans obviously want to win, and they pay our salary like everybody says, but like, we want to win, too, and the frustration got to us. And, you know, I didn’t mean to offend anybody, and if I offend anybody, we apologize.”

Lindor also said the gesture was not explicitly about fans.

“Thumbs down for me means adversity, the adversity we have gone through in this whole time,” Lindor said. “Like the negative things, we overcome it, so it’s like, `We did it! We went over it!’

“However, it was wrong, and I apologize to whoever I offended. It was not my intent to offend people.”

Baez and Lindor spoke to reporters in front of the Mets’ dugout. Lindor was booed by a few fans when he emerged, and two young boys held up thumbs-down signals behind him while he spoke. After Baez concluded his apology, one fan shouted to him “Javy, we just want to win, bro!”

“Glad to hear our players apologizing to the fans,” first-year owner Steve Cohen said on Twitter. “Let’s get behind our players today and go out and win 2 today!”

The Mets aren’t the only club taking exception to home-cooked ridicule. Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco complained last week about booing from fans in Pittsburgh a couple of days before being released by the team.

“They have to understand that I’m a human being, too,” he said.

Of course, New York is its own beast. Players and coaches expect that underperforming stars in the Big Apple will hear about it from fans.

“Here, I have a lot of respect,” Lindor said. “People are very honest and they let you know.”

Mets fan Will Gregory, 15, said before the game that he wished Baez handled the boos with as much grace as Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton. Gregory – standing with friends near the players’ entrance seeking autographs – said he respected Stanton for acknowledging the fans’ right to boo.

“He took it a lot differently, saying that, `We need to be better,”‘ Gregory said. “But you know, we’re New Yorkers, and that’s how (Baez) is going to be received if he plays bad. So, if he doesn’t want to get booed, he should just play better.”

The entire team – not just Baez and Lindor – was using the gesture, and Rojas said the players had decided to stop before he addressed the club Tuesday.

Outfielder Kevin Pillar – also in his first season with the team – tweeted Sunday that he’s “felt nothing but love in NYC” and that “No I’m not booing the fans.”

“Please don’t look to much into this,” he wrote.

“Media always searching for anything to cause controversy,” replied pitcher Marcus Stroman. “Stop playing into these narratives.”

Rojas said he didn’t know the meaning of the thumbs-down gesture until Baez’s comments Sunday.

“We’re being accountable for some of those decisions and that’s what I see in this group,” the manager said. “This is a group of guys that I think is accountable for their actions.

“We have leaders in there that have explained how the media, the fans, everything is here,” he added. “And myself, I have always told the guys how accountable we’ve got to be.”

A four-time All-Star, Lindor was acquired from Cleveland over the offseason in the first major move for the team since Cohen purchased the franchise. Lindor signed a $341 million, 10-year deal to remain in New York, but he has been jeered often during a season in which he is hitting .224 with 11 homers and a .686 OPS.

He was hopeful the gesture wouldn’t spoil his relationship with the fan base he is committed to through 2031.

“I hope this doesn’t stick around because it wasn’t meant to offend anybody, to disrespect nobody,” he said. “This is just a time of trying to pick each other up. We’re going through a rough time, and it was a gesture to pick each other up.”

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
0 Comments

ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.